Tuesday, May 31, 2011

My forever first born

Today is her birthday, my precious first born.

I realize I am half done raising her now that she's NINE. I can't really wrap my mind around it: halfway! It is also so strange that she is permanently my first born. And with that status comes an order that never changes. With your first born, motherhood doesn't get easier.

When I was pregnant, entertaining all my naive notions of what my life would soon be like, I expected I would gradually and consistently improve at mothering. What I did not realize was that the child I'd be mothering would be changing at a more rapid rate than I could keep up with. As soon as I'd master her routine or finally nail down a solution for a particular problem, that skill would become obsolete as she quickly grew. The routine would change, or a new problem would arise, both in which I was completely unskilled. In retrospect, does it help me that I finally figured out how to put her down for a nap without a pacifier? NO! That problem threatening to consume me at one point had a valuable solution for a matter of months, and a new challenge was happy to take it's place. So in the long run, the only thing I've gotten better at is expecting the constant change, the constant challenge, for both of us.

That firstborn. If you have one, you may already know what I mean. Or you may be slowly discovering this: you're always in a new stage. Always heading into uncharted territory. Always trying to find your footing on the shifting soil. With my first born, I was schooled in nursing, putting a baby to sleep, moving to solid foods, teething, then first steps, potty training, preschool, kindergarten, first grade, second grade, third grade. She has always been the first. I have always been trying to keep up, pouring through books on baby care and discipline, remembering the rules of long division and the line between subject and predicate. She is the first to gain from all my parenting knowledge, and the first to suffer from all my errors.

I must be honest with myself here, with you, and with her. It's harder for us. It harder for me to never know what to expect one stage to the next, and it's harder for her having a mama who is constantly inexperienced in mothering a child her age. In contrast, my younger one and I have a smoother time, as I feel familiar with what is coming next, and he surely benefits from that. He gets a more relaxed and skilled mother. And so my journey as a mom of my daughter is slightly more stressful, and slightly more intense. Because she is special. I could have ten more children, and she'd still be the only first. We grow together. Not only am I raising a daughter, but she is raising a mother.

In a sense, my daughter has taught me everything I know about motherhood, and a heck of a lot about love. And I am not always a good student of her. She has not always been a patient teacher (hello, toddlerhood!) and neither have I. But every single day, we've schooled together for these sacred nine years. I pray someday she understands why our relationship is woven with as many failures as there are momentous firsts. They go hand in hand, I'm afraid.

I'm sure the next nine years will be more of the same: glorious, terrifying, beautiful change. May 31st, 2002, I was called to be a mama, to be with her every step of the way. And I couldn't feel more blessed to be hers.

My darling daughter, your heart inspires me, your gifts amaze me, and your love humbles me. If God lined up all the girls in the whole wide world, I'd choose you. Happy Birthday.



  1. Happy motherhood anniversary to you. :)

  2. Happy birthday little one! She is so loved.

  3. sniff... sniff... In 19 days, this is my heartsong exactly too. The whole 9 years old bday = half way through with my first born ... yikes! :)

  4. happy birthday girl!!! She is a beauty...

  5. "Not only am I raising a daughter, but she is raising a mother." I love this, and it's so true. I can totally relate as I often feel like I'm bumbling along with firstborn. Thank goodness our children are gracious to us! Pray she has a wonderful birthday!

  6. This is so moving. Thank you for sharing such a big part of your heart. Happy birthday to your very special 9 year old!

  7. yes, this is all so true. i just love how you said "she is raising a mother". it sort of lets me breathe for a few minutes. knowing i'm not alone in my inadequacy. that it's to be expected and it's normal. such is the unique bond between the mother and the firstborn. it's hard for both, but it's also so special and so good.

    (also, i was about to graduate high school when you were becoming a momma for the first time. sort of funny, but both huge life steps, right?)

    happy birthday to your sweet girl! NINE years!?!? she's just beautiful.

  8. Happy Birthday to your sweet girl! Yes, you are SO very right, it's a constant change. I thought when I got something down, I had it made. Then a few months later, we'd be in a different stage, a different set of issues. Parenting is so hard there are some days I go to bed and wonder how I will get up and do it all over again, but I do, and it's wonderful!

  9. okayyy. weeping mess, party of one. that was beautiful, leslie. she will cherish every word. happy birthday to your sweet girl.

  10. Well I could use a warning if you are gonna make me cry like that. I loved every word and that first picture of you two is gorgeous!